By Alex P. Vidal
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”—Rosalynn Carter
ONE of the biggest news in the United States on November 19 was the passing of well-loved Rosalynn Carter.
The former first lady and one-half of the longest presidential marriage in U.S. history, was a pillar of her husband’s presidency and a trailblazing mental health advocate.
According to a release from the Carter Center, she died peacefully, with family by her side, at the age of 96.
Rosalynn was diagnosed with dementia in May, and it was announced on November 17 that she had entered hospice.
At the time, the Carter Center said she and her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, were “spending time with each other and their family.”
The Carter Center has published a tribute page in her honor.
According to 11 Alive, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter formed a lifelong partnership that took them from a small town in South Georgia to the White House.
“In many respects, the legacy of the Carter presidency – which is perhaps better defined by the decades of post-presidency humanitarian work done by the couple than by any one presidential act while in office – is as much hers as his,” 11 Alive narrated in a special tribute to Rosalynn.
A key surrogate in Jimmy Carter’s political campaigns and then a critical component of his presidency from 1977-80, Rosalynn essentially was his closest adviser once described in the national media as the “second-most powerful person in the United States.”
Beyond her unofficial influence, the reach of her official duties included formal trips to Latin America as the president’s personal representative and a position as the Honorary Chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.
She attended Cabinet meetings, an extraordinary level of involvement for a First Lady, and was the first First Lady to take up her own active office in the East Wing.
In both her political work and later philanthropic activities, mental health was her defining cause.
The story goes she was on the campaign trail with husband in Atlanta during his first (unsuccessful) run to be governor of Georgia when she met a woman who was returning home from her overnight shift at a cotton mill.
She asked the woman if she would be going home to rest, and the woman, looking exhausted, said that she would not be resting – she was on her way back to care for her daughter, who had mental health conditions.
It was an impression that stayed with Rosalynn.
She has said she later found Jimmy at a campaign event and, still preoccupied with her encounter, slipped in with him to shake hands.
He asked her what she was doing, and she responded only with: “I want to know what you’re going to do about mental health issues.”
That moment sparked a decades-long crusade to fight mental health stigmas and improve mental health services in the U.S. and across the globe.
Her first role as an advocate was in Georgia – as a member of the Governor’s Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped. During her time on that commission, a number of recommendations to improve Georgia’s mental health services became state law.
As chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, Rosalynn spearheaded work for a group that, according to Columbia University’s Global Mental Health Programs, was the first presidential commission focused on mental health.
After leaving the White House, the couple founded The Carter Center and Rosalynn made mental health the focus of her efforts through the organization, creating and chairing the center’s Mental Health Task Force and later establishing the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.
CLEPTOPHOBIA is fear of stealing. We need public officials and business partners who are cleptophobics.
CACOPHOBIA is fear of ugliness. This is big problem if you were born with a face only a mother could appreciate.
ABLUTOPHOBIA is fear of washing or bathing. Ablutophobiacs probably love germs and viruses. They should live in the desert.
THE QUICKEST. The chimpanzee holds the record for the quickest mammal sexual intercourse session at an average of 3 seconds.
WHAT IS THE SECRET BEHIND A SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP? 91 percent of those surveyed said it was still finding your partner attractive after being together for several years. Being “attractive” does not mean only physically. We can be attractive because of our values, intelligence, and the way we treat others, especially the lowly people.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)